SAN FRANCISCO – Amid previews of upcoming programming at the PBS Annual Meeting, including a groundbreaking 14-hour series on the Roosevelt family from Ken Burns, came extraordinary news of a record-setting donation for Masterpiece. Executive Producer Rebecca Eaton told attendees that the icon strand, through its Masterpiece Trust, will receive $3 million from longtime supporter Darlene Shiley on behalf of herself and her late husband Donald. Shiley’s local station, KPBS in San Diego, will share a portion of the contribution. The gift triples Shiley’s previously unprecedented $1 million donation in 2012. Since its inception in 2011, the trust has raised nearly $10 million for Masterpiece and local stations designated by donors.
Public television stations are hoping that special access to a rich library of PBS programs will convince viewers to become members and entice members to keep contributing. The multiplatform subscription program, with the working title MVOD (Membership Video on Demand), will be built atop COVE, PBS’s local-national video site. PBS is backing the initiative with $1.5 million in its fiscal 2015 budget. MVOD will feature past seasons of signature PBS general-audience series and provide stations with the ability to add locally produced series, said Ira Rubenstein, head of PBS Digital. “I think of it as Amazon Prime or Netflix, but only for station members,” he said.
PBS’s fiscal year 2015 draft budget includes the launch of a Membership Video on Demand service that will generate revenue by drawing on the network’s expansive library of content. MVOD members will get exclusive access to on-demand PBS videos, according to a budget document acquired by Current. “This is a critical product to help stations drive membership of the growing digital audience,” it said. The service will be integrated with PBS’s COVE video platform, and the public broadcaster anticipates hiring additional staff for the project. The budget proposal, now awaiting comment from stations, also requests a 2.5 percent increase in assessments from stations.
PBS stations need to share more information among themselves as they work to increase their community impact, PBS's new senior v.p. of station services Juan Sepulveda said at the two-day “Understanding Impact” symposium, convened by the Public Media Futures Forum and the Center for Investigative Reporting April 17 and 18. The forum, which took place at American University, explored how public media organizations can measure and analyze the impact of their work. Sepulveda, who started at PBS in January, said he was still trying to get a sense of how actively stations are working on issues of impact and how much information they’re sharing. So far, he’s concluded that a small number of stations are “doing it right,” he said, adding that “if we’re honest, a big chunk of the system is not.”
Sepulveda saw firsthand the success of digital outreach and community-organizing tactics when he worked to mobilize Texans and Latinos for President Obama’s campaigns. Public TV can apply those strategies to get stations “more directly involved in what’s happening with each other,” he said.